Tin God

Animals live under the air conditioner, maneuver small bodies through the cracks in the window frames, get themselves stuck in-between panes. When they are caught, they flop wildly and the sun shimmies just right, making the flopping bodies look bloody. We move the windows up and left and right and wiggle and up and up, slowly. Before they crawl in-between the cracks, they build nests out of Snickers wrappers and Subway napkins from the city park. When the sun sets, they are quiet. When the sky is pink in the morning, they warn us.

I wake in the middle of the night sitting upright. I am gulping for breath. I lean out of the bed and run to the air conditioner, slap the air conditioner with my hands, tell the animals to be quiet, to stop clawing. I am slapping the front of the air conditioner. I am saying no no no, and I climb back in bed. You ask if I am all right and I say, I just didn’t want to die tonight. Did you think someone was trying to climb through the window? Shhhh no, please don’t say that, no.

The next morning, we are vacuuming out the space between window frames, filling the holes with steel wool, wiping everything down with bleach, removing the trash-nests. We see the animals run up and down the roof, watching us destroy their homes. They are loud. I ask if I awakened in the night and you tell me the story, about how I said I didn’t want to die. The animals were silent, you say. There was no reason to bang on the air conditioner.

Katie Jean Shinkle is Assistant Poetry Editor of DIAGRAM, current Nonfiction Editor for Black Warrior Review and Contributing Editor for Del Sol Press. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Journal, PANK, Staccato Fiction, and dislocate, among others.